The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 20

above grew brighter and

For fully five hundred feet I continued to climb, until at length I
reached the opening in the stem which admitted the light. It was of
about the same diameter as the entrance at the foot of the tree, and
opened directly upon a large flat limb, the well worn surface of which
testified to its long continued use as an avenue for some creature to
and from this remarkable shaft.

I did not venture out upon the limb for fear that I might be discovered
and our retreat in this direction cut off; but instead hurried to
retrace my steps to Tars Tarkas.

I soon reached him and presently we were both ascending the long ladder
toward the opening above.

Tars Tarkas went in advance and as I reached the first of the
horizontal bars I drew the ladder up after me and, handing it to him,
he carried it a hundred feet further aloft, where he wedged it safely
between one of the bars and the side of the shaft. In like manner I
dislodged the lower bars as I passed them, so that we soon had the
interior of the tree denuded of all possible means of ascent for a
distance of a hundred feet from the base; thus precluding possible
pursuit and attack from the rear.

As we were to learn later, this precaution saved us from dire
predicament, and was eventually the means of our salvation.

When we reached the opening at the top Tars Tarkas drew to one side
that I might pass out and investigate, as, owing to my lesser weight
and greater agility, I was better fitted for the perilous threading of
this dizzy, hanging pathway.

The limb upon which I found myself ascended at a slight angle toward
the cliff, and as I followed it I found that it terminated a few feet
above a narrow ledge which protruded from the cliff's face at the
entrance to a narrow cave.

As I approached the slightly more slender extremity of the branch it
bent beneath my weight until, as I balanced perilously upon its outer
tip, it swayed gently on a level with the ledge at a distance of a
couple of feet.

Five hundred feet below me lay the vivid scarlet carpet of the valley;
nearly five thousand feet above towered the mighty, gleaming face of
the gorgeous cliffs.

The cave that I faced was not one of those that I had seen from the
ground, and which lay much higher, possibly a thousand feet. But so
far as I might know it

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